It is inconsistent to consider Genesis 1 a story to convey theological truths but Christ’s resurrection historical

As my consistent reads are undoubtedly aware, the comments in my last two posts (here and here) have turned away from the topic of the post and onto the subject of the interpretation of Genesis 1. I think I frustrated Joel so much (for which I appologize) that he wrote his own series of posts on the subject, here, here, here, and here (although perhaps others in his sphere of interaction also helped lead him to it – I don’t want to take the sole credit! :D).

But my basic point in the whole matter was to say that we should interpret the word of God using a historical-contextual-grammatical hermeneutic. We should accept the Bible as having been written by God using human authors, each of whom had his own history, perspective, audience, language, style, intention, context, and purpose for writing. The Bible’s stated purpose is to prepare us for good works (2 Timothy 3:15-17). God does not lie, so the material is trustworthy in all areas that it touches. All these must all be taken into account when interpreting the text of the Bible. But I would add one more thing as well, unless we have cause to not think that what is written should not be taken at face value, then we should accept the text as it is written.

I do not believe the Bible is a book of theology in the sense that it is a study of God. The Bible contains theological ideas and even discussions between God and man, and the Bible can and should be used to teach about God. But it is not a study of God. It is the revelation of God by God to man. This is a very different thing. The Bible is a book of past and future history (ie. “it is written”, “God said”, “I will”) from the perspective of one tribe of the interaction of God with mankind. The Bible teaches who God is, what God has done, what God will do, what God wants from us, and what God wants for us – using what God has done and said. It does not “study” God – it reports about God.

I am not saying the Bible is a science text, nor should it be read as such. Nor am I saying the text is scientificially wrong either. I am saying that the source is trustworthy, and given the situation, language, audience, history, and context, the text is accurate.

Sometimes the text will be from a human perspective, and sometimes that it will be from a divine perspective. Sometimes the text will be simple historical narrative. Sometimes it will be poerty. Sometimes it will be poetic narrative. Sometimes it will be apocaliptic. Sometimes it will be a lament. Sometimes it is prophetic.

Sometimes the text will relate common humdrum sorts of things. Sometimes the text will relate things of a supernatural nature. Sometimes the text will both discuss things of the then-and-there and have spiritual (or theological, which is not necessarily the same as spiritual) truths. Sometimes the text will discuss things of the then-and-there, as well as have future portent. The trick is to determine what any given passage is saying then and there and what it meant to the original author and audience, then find the theological truths being discussed in the text, then find a modern application in the here-and-now for the theological truths.

Now, I am NOT saying there are not spiritual and/or theological truths to be gleaned from what is found in the creation story (or any part of the Bible). I certainly think there is. But I am not discussing that aspect of the text. I am merely saying I consider it to be histocial fact.

But I want to quote Rick Wadholm in whether Genesis 1 should be considered myth in his post entitled Myth and Meaning (That Won’t Last?):

While it is certainly true that the portions of Scripture purporting historical accounts indeed convey more meaning that goes beyond a simple recounting of events, yet does greater meaning imply lack of historical veracity?  This notion seems (all too) often to be applied to Genesis (but only the first 11 chapters), but not to other portions of Scripture like the Gospels.  I find this phenomenon fascinating and disturbing at the same time. 

Kudos to those who can (inconsistently) hold to such views and maintain their faith in the historicity of the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus and see this same essential belief as non-essential regarding the very creation of the world and the fall into sin.  If the “meaning” is all that matters and not the “fact” or historicity of an event then why do they still hold to such concerning Jesus?  Because this is considered essential to faith in the revelation given. 

Read the rest on his blog. Its really good reading. He goes on to say that people deny the historicity of Genesis 1-11 because they have evidence which supports not taking it as actual history. He further reminds us that we have ‘evidence’ that “people are not born of virgins”, and that “‘evidence’ tell[s] us that the dead stay dead (especially after being assured of death and being buried).”

If we have evidence that tells us the virgin birth and the resurrection are impossible, yet we believe those were historical events when it comes to Christ, why do we have difficulty believing the history of creation presented in Genesis 1? If we ignore/deny the  “evidence” that comes from outside the Bible concerning Christ’s birth and resurrection, why must we rely upon such “evidence’ that apparently shows the creation “could not” have happened as written? 

It is very inconsistent.

 Personally, I take it that Genesis 1 documents what happened, how it happened (high level – God spoke), and the order and timing that it occured. I take it as factual, with an interpretation of 24 hours for the term day, and the order of creation as God actually did it as written. I have not found a biblical reason to not do so. In fact, Moses and Jesus both seemed to treat the events in Genesis as having happened as written. Was that their purpose in referring to the events? I doubt it. But that does not change the fact that they treated it as historical.

Now, does treating Genesis 1 as factual go against our modern science? Of course it does. Does this mean the text is wrong? No. If you trust the text, then it means one of four things: either 1) modern science is wrong concerning creation, or 2) creation is not something science could measure (ie. it is supernatural), or 3) parts of the creation story are accurate while other parts are poetic language, or 4) some combination of the previous three things. I’m OK with the idea that our current science is inaccurate concerning creation. I’m OK with the idea that creation is a one time event and as such it can not be measured (even though some aspects of its effect may be measured many untold number of years later). I’m OK with the idea that it is a story wherein only some or even most or all parts of the story are poetic. But I still think it makes the most sense to take the creation story in Genesis 1 (indeed all of Genesis) as factual historical narrative.

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21 Responses

  1. Wb,
    Thanks for the kind comments here! I believe part of the problem with science (as it concerns cosmogeny) is the inability to definitively answer questions of origin. The limitations of scientific inquiry are such that it is should humbly hold back from answering such questions (given that it prerequisitely cannot ‘calculate’ the hand of God in anything). To speak of origins is (in my opinion) science reaching beyond itself. The things of beginning and end belong ot the LORD and as such are matters of revelation and not simply humanistic based inquiry (as if that can ever truly arrive at the same conclusions as divine revelation). While I know that creation declares the glory of God, yet I (and everyone else) only really know this as fact because of the special revelation of Scripture. Natural revelation declares God’s glory (which man willfully suppresses the knowledge of), but special revelation is necessary for knowing the beginning and the end (and indeed the One who is both and thus the reason for everything).

    • Rick,

      I agree that when science tries to speak of origins, it is reaching beyond itself. I’d go so far as to say when science speaks to origins that it enters the realm of metaphysics.

  2. Uh…no. It is not inconsistent. That is a very large understatement of my position and indeed, the historical biblical position.

  3. Wait…. forgot one thing :)

    I am preparing a post as a response, should be posting about 11:59.

  4. Joel,

    :) Bless your heart! If you say its not inconsistent, then it must be so! :) LOL!

    Really, I hope I did not misrepresent you, as I thought I was pretty much summing up what you said in your post ( http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2010/02/discussions-on-genesis-1 ), ” I believe that Creation happened just like the Scriptures say, how they were first written and understood.” And I figure they can go read your posts on the matter, which is one reason I linked to them.

    I was not trying to state the entire historical biblical position – that could be a treatise in itself. I was talking about how I see how all scrpiture should be interpreted – and note I am NOT saying to interpret all scripture literally, but unless we have reason to not do so, then I see no reason to not do so.

    And I was also saying I think its inconsistent to treat one supernatural story as historical and not treat another supernatural story as historical.

    I await with baited breathe your response. :)

  5. It will be pretty easy on you, Wb, but I can’t say that about someone else.

    The problem, Wb, is that we have examples in Scripture of interpretation, which I will get to in my post shortly.

    Again, I am not saying that we should not interpret Gen 1 literally, but there is more to, just as there is more to the Resurrection of Christ than a single historical event.

    • Joel,

      Having spoken with you, I can understand your position. I hope you are able to reflect it in what you write. I think its hard to communicate it.

  6. […] a good friend, has made another post on this subject, saying that it is inconsistent to treat Genesis 1 as a theological text while treating the […]

  7. My position would be more within the framework of the so-called redemptive-historical (see Geerhardus Vos’s works). Thus Revelation is not so much a divinely given “gnosis” to provide us with knowledge about God and man, as it is showing us a divinely inspired “kergyma” of God’s action of redeeming men so that they might worship and serve God in the world. Thus again the coming of Christ in the “fullness of time,” really shapes the progress of revelation. And the deepest motive controlling the movement of history is not instruction but incarnation. And as Vos said, “The circle of revelation is not a school, but a covenant.” The “redemptive-historical”. Revelation is a function of redemption. The work or redemption is not a divine work that breaks into history only at a single point, it is a long history of God’s covenantal action. From the First Adam until the Last…”theological”, but very real! Again not a mere story (myth), but a “historical” narrative in/of redemption. (See Gen. 3: 15)

    • Fr. Robert,

      LOL! If you say so.

      Would you do us the favor of unpacking that immensely dense theological treatise you just wrote? :) Its packed with theological terms that most would have to research or be trained in theology to understand. I don’t think it would be helpful to the comman layman – and THAT is to whom I target this blog.

      I realize my summary of what you wrote will be inexact and incomplete, but I think you are saying the facts of Genesis 1 dont matter, but only the theological truths found therein, pointing to the revelation of God for the redemption of man over time. Am I close?

  8. W,
    Yes, you would be close on that, though the “narrative” truths of Genesis 1-3, are very real and spiritual! But in reality the only way we are going to even touch the truth of Genesis 1-3, is going back to the Texts with both covenant and incarnation. Note the text of Hebrews 11: 3! Only “faith” is going to get us both home, and into that place of “knowing”! This really is the essence of “redemptive-historical”.

    These are deep and very theological places in Scripture. Indeed Creation is the “place”, or out from it, of Redemption, simply. But oh so profoundly! ‘A Christ inconsistent with nature it [the reason of man] could not have found a place for.’ (Charles Gore) Christ is natural then, but HE is also supernatural. And the unity of the Bible, after all, is not something that has to be established or demonstrated in any constitutive way. Doctrinal unity is there, in the text, prior to the activity of any interpreter, because the Scriptures are the written word of God.

    Sorry, but we all must dig and think! Such is the Holy Scripture itself! Note in 2 Peter 1: 16-21, that the “prophetic word made more sure” (verse 19), is also connected to the revelation of Christ Incarnate…”This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” “From God the Father and the voice…borne to him by the Majestic Glory” (verse 17). And then on to verse 21…”no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit from/of God.”

    • Fr. Robert,

      Thanks for taking the time to explain.

      I have no problem with digging in scripture, but I’m not sure I want to be digging in theology books when its much simpler for you to clarify what you mean (because what YOU get from a theology book and I get from it might be very different things).

  9. W,
    Sorry again, “theology” is now part of my biblical life (for many years now that I might wish to admit lol) and I did teach it. So I always seek that “genre” and method. I am the ‘old man’ here also! (I have books that I bought that are no doubt older than most here, that were new when I bought them..lol)

    Note again, I use the biblical word “prophetic” in the sense not of the future, but of “revelation”.

  10. PS… Also “theology” is much different for me than you, and many of my “books” are like old friends. When we visit each other I somehow learn again! They are much more than mere ‘tools of the trade’….some are almost “sacramentalist” like (note I did not say “sacramental”). Certainly I value those “theolog’s” that are before the Lord now also. Not prayers to them, but “fellowship” in many of their ministry left.

  11. “My oldest son sent me some of my choice books from England.”

  12. W,
    Yes, he just called a bit ago. He is 20 years old now. Where did the time go? He is my “intellectual”, but more into journalism, he has a sports blog. He loves American baseball, and European car racing, what a cross-cut there!

    • 20…. wow. Yes, that’s definitely a cross cultural set of interests!

      My oldest is 13 and it still shocks me. Interesting, my oldest is also my intellectual (in terms of loving ot read) – although to be fair all of my kids are scarey smart.

  13. My youngest is 13, both my boys were born in my 40’s! I know crazy, but that is just the way it happened. My 13 year old is the computer gamer…Modern Warfare, and stuff. But better he loves flying games, also. This is a real different generation than mine was! But, my/our sons are both conservative thinkers! lol Funny I wonder where they learned that?

    • ALL my kids love to play games. I have one who loves anything to do with war. I have another who likes to build things and loves music. I have another who will read anything with words, and who loves to build, but is the most gregarious child I know. My daughter is a bit of a tomboy, but she is definitely all girl! :)

  14. Sweet gifts of God! There is nothing quite like being a father, save being a mother. This is a gamer generation!

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